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Real Madrid Won the Tactical Chess Match – Analysis of the Champions League Final

Borussia showed a relatively high possession rate (43%) and often played the ball. The match turned into an endless series of mutual adaptations. Carlo Ancelotti's team found new ways to adjust their pressing to Borussia's play, and Edin Terzić's team found new ways to escape the press.

Real defended in a classic 4-4-2, where the wingers marked the full-backs, and the central midfielders marked their counterparts. This created a 3 vs. 2 situation in favor of the Germans in the midfield, giving Borussia an additional option to play through Emre Can. Vinicius tried to cover Can and his direct opponent, Mats Hummels, for a while, but the Brazilian couldn't keep up. The problem was only solved by raising the stakes: towards the end of the half, Eduardo Camavinga moved up from the holding zone to mark Can. However, Dortmund quickly posed a new challenge: Marcel Sabitzer started dropping down alongside Can. Toni Kroos sometimes avoided pushing up so high.

Borussia retained its 3-2-X buildup structure in the second half but changed its components. Can dropped between the center-backs as a third defender, and Ian Maatsen moved into the holding zone with Sabitzer. This forced Federico Valverde to make a difficult choice: if he marked his direct opponent, Maatsen, Nico Schlotterbeck, one of whose main strengths is his excellent passing, was left free. If Valverde went to Nico, Maatsen was left unmarked. Thanks to this tactic, Nico made 13 progressive passes and had 8 progressive carries.

However, Real learned to handle this in the latter part of the half. Valverde was instructed to always go to Nico, while Rodrygo switched to Maatsen or Kroos moved up. The pressure from the Brazilian forced Maatsen to make a mistake, burying Dortmund's chances of a comeback.

Karim Adeyemi did a tremendous amount of practical work. He successfully marked Dani Carvajal (an achievement in itself), covered for Julian Brandt against Valverde, and launched counterattacks with perfect timing and positioning, getting into dangerous scoring positions three times. Unfortunately, the only area where the German faltered was in finishing.

Published by Patrick Jane